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Monday, 12 August, 2002, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Text message bullies face expulsion
mobile text message
Many bullies use text messages to intimidate
Bullies who use mobile phone text messages to intimidate other children could be expelled from school in a clampdown on the phenomenon, the UK Government has warned.

Updated guidelines being sent to schools in England in September will, for the first time, explicitly recognise the problem, the Department for Education said.


Our clear message to bullies who use text messages is you will suffer exactly the same punishments and penalties that other bullies suffer

Department for Education
The guidance advises victims to keep the message or a record of what it said, as evidence.

Their mobile phone operators would change the number free of charge if they could show the phone was being abused, officials said.

Statistics published earlier this year from children's charity NCH showed a quarter of youngsters had been threatened via their computer or mobile and 16% had been bullied by text message.

Punishments and penalties

"There's evidence to suggest it is on the increase and, from our discussions with teachers, is it certainly something that they are now dealing with, and dealing with effectively," a spokesman for the department said.

"Our clear message to bullies who use text messages is you will suffer exactly the same punishments and penalties that other bullies suffer."

bullying girls
Fear of being bullied can lead some victims to play truant

Chris Keates, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said the union supported strong measures against school bullies.

"Text messaging is another type of psychological bullying which is always difficult to detect but has a devastating effect," said Ms Keates.

"Text messaging is an invidious type of bullying as the perpetrator is nowhere near the victim.

"However, once detected, there is concrete evidence to demonstrate it has taken place."

Truancy link

The government warning comes as research suggests many children from low-income families are so fearful of being bullied for being the "poor kid" that they skip school.

According to the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the shame often felt by youngsters from poorer families coupled with the pressures of consumerism is driving many to play truant.

The charity claims up to 300,000 children do not take up their entitlement to free school meals and miss out on school trips for fear of being teased.

"Fear of being teased and bullied is a reality for many children in low income families, and can be a reason for truancy and poor performance at school," said Martin Barnes, the director of CPAG.

"Children from low-income families can be extremely self-conscious about their appearance and being labelled as poor by their peers," said Mr Barnes.

"It's something that often gets overlooked. Children will often play truant rather than go to school in shoes that they may be teased about, or miss a school trip they feel their parents can't afford."

See also:

03 Jul 02 | Education
22 Aug 01 | Health
09 Jul 01 | Education
29 Mar 01 | Education
16 Jan 01 | Education
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